When I was less experienced, it was easier to rile me up with a story. Then I realized that a story tells only part of the truth, the part that needs to be told to get you to like the story. Thus the woman your buddy picked up at a bar who had the huge gazongas in reality looks like a horse, and huge gazongas can’t help that; the huge party they went to was actually 15 frat guys and a keg.
Thus when a news article comes out or someone whispers a tale to me at a social event, I’m less likely to take sides. I’m more likely to think that it’s time to learn more and assess the whole situation, not assume that the tale is reality. The oldest human error is to confuse our perception with reality.
Even worse is when the laws behavior like that story. They tell you part of the situation, defined in the self-referential terms of the law itself, and miss out on what the law is designed to prevent: bad consequences. Laws are designed to avoid bad consequences in the here and now, but that can’t always be done once a victim’s on the ground. So they are also designed to remove incentive for the kind of actions that lead to future bad consequences, or so we’re told.
A case in point, where the law fails by being too self-referential, is the more of the necessary facts in Byron Smith’s case:
Kifer and Brady were cousins and were well-known in the community. Both were involved in sports, and Kifer worked several part-time jobs, according to online obituaries.
But a different picture of the teens emerged after their deaths. Authorities have said a car linked to Brady and Kifer contained prescription drugs that had been stolen from another house, apparently the day before they were killed. And court documents from another case show Brady had burglarized Smith’s property at least twice in the months before he was shot.
In other words, these weren’t two teens going down to the basement in what they thought was an empty house to have a little private time. These were hardened criminals who had hit this house twice before. Apparently, law enforcement couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything. Thus Byron Smith did what any sane person would do: he removed the threat.
The herd will gather around this trial and decide that Smith was a bad guy and these kids were innocent victims. The truth is usually more nuanced. I know nothing about Smith, but it’s likely we didn’t lose anyone good with these kids. Often popular kids of this type are simply the most manipulative of the class and have learned to fool adults convincingly.
Manipulators know how to look good on the surface and, when no one is looking, to adjust situations to their own benefit. Often our biggest criminals are of this type. We (originally) set up laws to protect citizens from such people. Our idea was to prevent future consequences, which are caused by tolerance of bad acts in the present. But under the herd-rule, the law has become a weapon against us.
The law is just the wrong tool to use here. It makes good people helpless in the face of manipulators such as these burglars. So what if Byron Smith intended to murder these two idiots? What we have here is a case of justifiable murder: bad people keep doing bad things, society sticks its thumb where the sun doesn’t shine, and so one man ends the problem. Give him a medal, not a conviction.